Is There a Cloudcuckoolander in Your Book?

 

 

I just read a post about lesser-known character archetypes on the Writers Helping Writers site. One of the types was a cloudcuckoolander. The example of Dory, the forgetful fish from Finding Nemo (say that three times fast), is a great one.

But, in reading the description of a cloudcuckoolander, the first character that leapt to mind was Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.

Quirky, living in their own unrealistic world of rainbows and unicorns (Unikitty from Cloud Cuckoo Land ring any Lego Movie bells?), making absurd comments (often in the midst of a dire situation), providing unique perspectives (that no one else sees)… But not your average oddball. And not an airhead by any means.

No. A cloudcuckoolander is an all-around peculiar person who, frequently, rescues the other characters by means of an idea so outlandish that it takes everyone aback before they give it a thought and realize it’s actually going to work. “Thinking outside the box” doesn’t quite cut it for me here so I’ll say this type of character is “Living outside the box”.

It takes a special set of characters (like Harry, Hermione, and Ron, among others) to give the cloudcuckoolander his or her due. To accept, acknowledge, listen to, and recognize the potential of someone who is off in her own world while they are firmly set in theirs. It might, understandably, be difficult to tolerate someone talking about Nargles while you’re being attacked by DeathEaters.

Despite her wacky, kooky ways (I daresay because of them), Luna helped the Hogwarts trio numerous times throughout the seven-book series.

She is smart (she was in Ravenclaw, after all) but it was her belief in the strange and unusual that led her to an invisible, paralyzed, bloodied-up Harry on the Hogwarts Express. Remember that? (Though, being the geek that I am, I must mention Luna saved him in the film version, not the book. Point still stands.)

They’re those “funny” characters that have to say things like “That was a joke” because they’re always saying bizarre things with straight faces and the other characters have no frame of reference for the cloudcuckoolander’s sense of humor.

Yes, I’m a Potterhead (and in good company, I’m sure). But what I want to know is if you have used this particular archetype or think that, perhaps, you could add one to your WIP to improve the plot.

Personally, I don’t introduce characters to the plot, they introduce themselves to the me. But I’m thinking I actually have a cloudcuckoolander in one of the books I’m working on and I am having a great deal of fun with that.

 

Have you ever heard of the cloudcuckoolander? Do you have any of these characters in your story?

Do you know any cloudcuckoolanders from books/TV/movies?

 

Hi! I am Princess Unikitty, and I welcome you all to Cloud Cuckoo Land!

 

Please do check out the Lesser-Known Character Archetypes post on Writers Helping Writers site (from the brilliant Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi).

 

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35 thoughts on “Is There a Cloudcuckoolander in Your Book?

  1. I love Unikitty (frankly, I love everything that is the LEGO move – and they’d better not screw it up with the sequel). You have no idea how many times I have told myself “Any idea is a good idea except the non-happy ones. Those we push down deep inside where you’ll never, ever, ever, EVER find them!”

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    • I had never heard of this, either, but I do know the character type. As soon as I read about it, I thought of Luna but didn’t know she was a specific archetype. Pretty cool. And I think it would be a fun character to write. Possibly challenging… 😂 “I do have some cloudcuckoolander moments here and there.”

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  2. You know, I don’t think I have a specific character that matches that mold. Most of my character are a bit on the odd side, though more in a Psych sense than a Luna one. 🙂

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      • Actually, I don’t. 🙂 I’ve got a lecherous mad scientist who is trapped as a 9yo, a spectacular healer who is also a homicidal swordsman, a cannibalistic pygmy witch doctor, a monotone naked guy who occasionally gets transformed, and Cera–Miss Awesome herself. There’s no cloudcuckoolander… Everyone on her team is on the same wavelength, which pretty much means doom and destruction for anyone who crosses their path.

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  3. While the entire Lego Movie was a delightful surprise, Unikitty is easily my favorite part of the whole thing. I have never heard of this as an archetype, but I can see how it serves that purpose.
    And yeah, I don’t want to say “I must put in a cloudcookoolander…”
    But I can consider which character I have that fits such a role and better use them in that role.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a lot to like about that movie (I was pleasantly surprised, too) but Unikitty… Hilarious. And, obviously, living in a place called “Cloud Cuckoo Land”, the writers knew about this archetype and were playing on that. I think these characters definitely serve a purpose well beyond comic relief (which they provide). Good idea to check your characters to see if any fit this role. I might have one…not sure.

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  4. I had never heard of the cloudcuckoolander but do fashion myself to be one at times. In my books, I enjoy including illogical characters and they are definitely a staple to explore. From characters who live in dreams and shadows (Bill from Only Human), to actually one of the main characters of my new WIP, Fäet Odstein. They are odd but make sense in an odd way. I like that. I like flipping things on their ass and asking why not? Have I written a secondary character to the level of Luna, the WIP has several of those but it’s supposed to be an odd book talking about people who want to help a boy who dreams about flying. You can’t expect normal answers for abnormal dreams, however common they are. 🙂

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    • “do fashion myself to be one…” 😜 Awesome.

      Why not, indeed. I’m writing a whole book with a main character I love who is pretty much a “why not?” Whether your characters are actual cloudcuckoolanders or not, they sound fun and entertaining.

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    • New idea for me, too. I suppose that’s why it was included in their “lesser known” archetypes post. Pretty cool. I’ve been trying to come up with some other examples from books/TV/movies. They do make a story more interesting!

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  5. I had a friend like this a long time ago…sadly, we’ve lost touch now. She was unfailingly cheerful and had a quirky sense of humour. One time, we were driving around a city late at night – hopelessly lost without a map – when she made a bizarre suggestion re: how to get back onto the street we needed. I didn’t think it would work, but was desperate enough to try anything. So I followed her instructions and she was right! She had never been there before, but somehow she knew the right way.

    People (and characters) like that are treasures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are treasures. And it sounds like a perfect fit for your friend. (Although not a fun situation.) Shame you lost touch. It happens, sadly. I was so hoping you’d be able to think of some characters from film who fit this type. Anything?

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  6. ‘I don’t introduce characters to the plot, they introduce themselves.’ Love this! Same here 🙂
    I have a clown type character who gives some comic relief, and actually helps the plot move forward usually unwittingly. He’s called Simon and he’s a bit simple! He might be one of those 🙂

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    • They do though… Characters are great that way.

      Sounds like you may have a cloudcuckoolander there. 🙂 They do add comic relief but are usually intelligent. I would think that if he helps “save the day” sometimes with his unique perspectives then he might fit the type.

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  7. I’m dating myself, but the first TV character (sorry, not a book) that immediately came into my mind was Mork from the show Mork and Mindy (1978-1982).(Thank goodness for Professor Google who could tell me the dates). The character was played by none other than Robin Williams. I love the sound of the character type: ‘cloudcuckoolander’. Seems fitting somehow. I can’t say I know anyone quite like it personally; would be interesting though. Thanks for the lesson Sarah!

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  8. Interesting, Sarah, my current WIP doesn’t fit the genre, but I do have a lovely old lady as one of three point of view characters who is (to paraphrase contemporary psychiatric terminology) completely off her trolley. I don’t think I can engineer for her to save the day for the characters who are more orientated to reality, but she does make more than one noble attempt, and I’m really hoping readers will warm to her.

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    • Ha! I’ve already warmed to her. 🙃 And I do like that contemporary psychiatric term. I think, for a true cloudcuckoolander to work (give advice/save the day), the other characters need to be extremely patient. Perhaps. This archetype is new to me.

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    • That’s exactly what happened to me. I hadn’t heard the term but, as soon as I read it, I thought of Luna. I’ve since thought of some other characters like that. It’s really interesting. I think I might have one in the book I’m working on now. Which would be cool. 🙂

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